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Berlin this year, at least the first leg of the film festival in March, will be online only, with everyone — critics, reporters and the international film industry — watching the lineup of the 2021 Berlinale from home on their laptops.
Everyone, that is, except for this year’s competition jury. Thanks to the efforts of Berlinale artistic director Carlo Chatrian, an old-school cinephile who believes you can’t judge a movie from its online stream, the members of this year’s jury will watch the 2021 competition as it was intended: on the big screen.
The festival will fly five of the six jurors — Israeli director Nadav Lapid (Synonyms), Romanian filmmaker Adina Pintilie (Touch Me Not), Italian director Gianfranco Rosi (Notturno), Bosnian director Jasmila Zbanić (Quo Vadis, Aida?) and Hungary’s Ildikó Enyedi (On Body and Soul) — to Berlin and, after COVID-19 testing, screen the 2021 competition titles for them in a theater in the German capital starting Feb. 25. The jury will watch the movies together — masked and socially distanced — and discuss them in group sessions as they would in a normal year.
“I can imagine it has been very challenging to organize this in the present circumstances, but I fully trust the Berlinale team’s experience,” says Pintilie. “We’ll be tested daily and all external contacts will be avoided to protect our health, we will be offered all the needed conditions to be able to focus fully on the cinematic experience and our discussions.”
Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof, winner of last year’s Berlinale Golden Bear for There Is No Evil, is still under house arrest and unable to leave the country. He will watch the competition films from a private screening room in his home and take part in the jury discussions via Zoom.
“It’s a strong sign of solidarity that we will be together, watching these films on the big screen,” says Rosi, “because cinema was meant to be seen this way, not on a phone or a laptop.”
Aside from the new hygienic measures, the jury this year is unique. All six members are former Golden Bear winners and know all too well how important Berlin can be for the career of an international independent filmmaker. Lapid, Pintilie and Zbanić won Berlin with their debut films. The Golden Bear helped put them on the map.
“Winning in Berlin was crucial for my career,” says Zbanić. “The Berlinale has always been open to films from the margins. It’s part of its energy. As an artist and as a political person who sees herself as coming from the edges, it’s a big reason why I love Berlin.”
This story first appeared in the Feb. 24 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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